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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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San Ramon's magic wand

Uploaded: Feb 23, 2012
We want this, we don't want that. Ah if it were only that simple. San Ramon residents, or at least those who post in online blogs on the Express, seem to believe that the City should do whatever THEY want.

They must believe the City Council is all powerful and can wave a magic wand over the old Ralphs Supermarket building and banish Walmart forever while plopping a Trader Joes in.

Some of these bloggers make it sound as if our city leaders are willfully allowing a Walmart into our fair city. How crass! They must be doing it for the money. After all Walmart isn't "our kind of store."

Well it's not my kind of store as I have said, but as I have also said our City government cannot keep a business from operating in a building already approved for that kind of business. Walmart has a grocery store it wants to put into a building approved for a grocery store.

Do we prefer Trader Joes? Yes, but Trader Joes management does not prefer San Ramon. Our status has dropped to the level of Walmart, I suppose.

Do people really believe our City government can demand a private business open in a specific location and another one cannot. There's a name for a political system that dictates where businesses can locate, which businesses can locate there, and how businesses are run. It's called Communism.

America is based on free trade, or so the Republicans tell us. Free trade means a business can operate and sell its products where it wants and how it wants. City governments can set some restrictions, like zoning regulations, safety ordinances, and architectural review. These can limit the height, size, colors, signage, noise levels, hours of operation, and parking for the business; but there are no laws in San Ramon that can force Trader Joes to put a store where we want it or force Walmart not to open store where we don't. Or are there?

I asked that question at the Public Hearing on the new North Camino Ramon Specific Plan at the Joint City Council-Planning Commission Meeting last Tuesday night. This plan proposes 5,070,000 sq. ft. of non-residential uses, which is an increase of 1,675,000 sq. ft. more than what is there now. Non-residential could mean office or parking or retail or open space. In fact a large swath of space is proposed for a promenade.

But if the whole area is zoned mixed use, and the City wants to encourage more retail to "stop the leakage" of sales to Dublin, Pleasanton, and Walnut Creek, then what kind of big, box retail stores could be zoned to move into the rest of this non-residential space? Can someone spell "Wal-Mart, boys and girls?"

When I asked that at the Public Hearing last Tuesday, I was assured that Wal-Mart could be kept out the same way a prior City Council kept out Costco. Yes you may not realize it, but Costco is NOT in San Ramon. Residents of San Ramon didn't want the Costco, so it located across the street in Danville. Now San Ramon gets the traffic and Danville gets the sales taxes. Sometimes keeping something out can blow up in your face.

I have been arguing in favor of the NCRSP for the last couple of years, so why change my tune now? The answer is simple, Wal-Mart. It wasn't on my radar until I linked how big the big boxes could be in NCRSP with the "threat" of Wal-Mart Superstoredom.

If the NCRSP is zoned for big box, mixed use, and one or two property owners sell their land to Wal-Mart to build a Superstore on Norris Canyon Road, what's to stop them? Councilmember Scott Perkins says they can be stopped. Councilmember Dave Hudson says they were stopped from putting a Superstore where the Home Depot is now.

The NCRSP is planned for 20 years in the future. Perkins and Hudson probably won't still be on the City Council in 2032 and I'll be turning 90 if I'm still alive. So it probably won't matter to me if there's a Wal-Mart moving in downtown or not.

But let's make sure now that whatever is in the NCRSP leaves us prepared for all of the possibilities. That's what these meeting are about – considering all the possibilities of what should vs. what could be built San Ramon.

Comments

 +  Like this comment
Posted by Westerner, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 27, 2012 at 1:15 pm

"America is based on free trade, or so the Republicans tell us." Does this mean that Democrats do not believe in free trade?


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Feb 27, 2012 at 1:28 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

To play it safe, I'll quote Will Rogers (who died over 75 years ago), "I don't belong to an organized political party. I'm a Democrat."

It seems to me the Democrat Party is still somewhat disorganized. So the answer is probably, yes, no, and maybe.

Roz


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Bob P, a resident of another community,
on Feb 27, 2012 at 2:24 pm

Roz, good thoughts! My belief has always been that it is always easier to criticize those who work for significant change rather then actually work for the change yourself. Things are always easier to do if you don't have to do them! The sidelines are always safer than being in the game.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Feb 27, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Bob,

I don't know why more people do not come to these meetings. They complain a lot about decisions the Council or Planning Commissioners make, but they don't go to the meetings to express their thoughts first or even find out what the Council or Planning Commission can do.

I plan to attend the next Planning Commission meeting on the NCRSP, because I see some potential hazards in the existing plan.

In my defense of the zoning changes in the General Plan I pointed out that there will be many Public Hearings on the Specific Plan before it is adopted. So now is the time to go to those meetings or send emails to the Council and Planning Commission and not whine about them after the decisions are made.

Roz


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Dave , a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 27, 2012 at 3:35 pm

Roz, Remember the question (statement)about Wal-mart you asked Alex Mehran at the city center meetings? Why in the North if not in the South?

Your last sentence says it all. That's what we are trying to do while the on/off ramp studys are ongoing, while the sustainable community strategy (state and region) work is coming to a close, and before the economy turns around so we are ready when it does allow investments. Just saying "no" gets you Cosco in Danville with the impacts in San Ramon again. Let's get a comprehensive plan for NCRSP while the facts are on the table.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Feb 27, 2012 at 4:03 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Dave,

I don't remember asking Alex Mehran about Wal-Mart. Someone else asked about a big box selling groceries. I remember who asked it but I can't remember his name.

I'm not sure what the question is about why in the North if not in the South, but if you mean the Walmart grocery, that isn't a full sized superstore and from what I gather that shopping center isn't big enough to hold one.

All of the retail space planned for the NCRSP could be big enough, so that's why I'm more concerned about it in the North than the South.

Roz


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Kevin, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 27, 2012 at 4:15 pm


Some members on the City Council state the NCRSP is a plan for twenty years in the future. They are now starting to analogize the redevelopment as a "Santana Row". We are finally starting to get some clarity.

The property that Lucky sits on is owned by the same property real estate holding company owns San Jose's Santana Row! Luckys has a lease for 8 more years, until 2020. This is why the Luckys shopping center has little improvement and Luckys won't invest because they do not own the property. Obviously, this property will be redeveloped as soon as Luckys lease is up.This means that redevelopment is 8 years away!

I agree and appreciate that residents of San Ramon have diverse opinions as to what direction it's growth should take. The frustrating part is that obviously our Economic development committee, Planning commission and long time City Council members know this but choose to be less than forthright about the complete facts of their plan. This is why residents have had to dig for the complete truth.

If the plans for San Ramon are good enough that a majority of residents would desire them, then the City administration should be open to presenting all of the facts.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Bob P., a resident of another community,
on Feb 27, 2012 at 8:25 pm

Kevin, I remember going to Santana Row back when I was on the Planning Commission. We had City Council, Planning, Economic Development Committee members as well as members of the public with us. You, yes, even you could have attended if you would have liked. The visit was noticed as a special meeting according to the Brown Act. There is no Orwellian secret hidden agenda. The agendas to the vast majority of city meetings are public information if people would just look in the right place. Information is available if the public wants to become involved. In my experience, no matter how much notice and 'forthrightness' is given, someone will always say they never heard about it and someone is hiding something.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by kevin, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 27, 2012 at 9:16 pm

Bob,

You missed the point of what I wrote. I stated that the current owners of the property that Lucky's sits on will look to develop it in 8 years, not 20 as framed by the City planners.Let's just be honest about who is involved in this plan and what they know will happen. Is honesty really worth sacraficing for a vision?

I went to Santana Row last weekend. I noticed the housing over the business were rentals. I understoood why as I dined outside. The music, general noise and car music and engines as they "Cruzed the Row"(reminded me of Walnut Creek as a teenager) would not be condusive to long term ownership. I also noticed that most of the units seemed to be vacant? The traffic surrounding the parking facilities was like getting out of a Giants game. Keep in mind that there are only 700 residential units as opposed to the 1500 proposed for heart of the North Camino Ramon Specfic Plan.

Bob:

You should know, "Is the property that Luckys sits on owned by the rental holding company that owns Santana Row?. Is the lease with Luckys up in 8 years?"


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Feb 27, 2012 at 10:24 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Kevin,

The NCRSP isn't for 20 years from now. It's for a period of 20 years. So parts will happen sooner and parts will happen later, but the goal is for whenever the development happens, the results in 20 years will be congruent and not haphazard. If there's a possibility that Lucky's shopping center will be converted to housing, then it's better to have a Specific Plan for it sooner rather than later.

I was surprised by Kathy Cherry's favorable comments about her Big O Tire store in Elk Grove (I think). She said the development was good for their business. The Big O in San Ramon isn't far from where your business is. Why don't you go over there and ask them about it? She said to keep an open mind. Maybe you should.

Roz


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Bob P., a resident of another community,
on Feb 28, 2012 at 6:33 am

Kevin, I don't know when the lease is up for the Crow Canyon Commons property, but I do know that Federal Realty owns it. Federal Realty owns many properties, one of which is Santana Row in San Jose. I can't predict what will happen with that location and either can you. To say that "Obviously, this property will be redeveloped as soon as Lucky's lease is up.This means that redevelopment is 8 years away" is just not true. Redevelopment is a long, mostly legal process. It will take decades to do any significant redevelopment, it just simply can't be done any faster.

Planning 101 time, Kevin. A 'plan is not a promise of development'. The NCRSP is a guiding document to shape discussion and attempt to guide efforts to provide affordable housing and stimulate retail development. The NCRSP is the newest of the specific plans currently in San Ramon. The others are the Westide Specific Plan, the Northwest Specific Plan and the Westide Specific Plan. Take for example the NWSP aka the Faria Property development. This was approved in 2006, and planning occured as I recall starting in 2000 (probably earlier). It is now 2012, and I don't believe any real work has even started on that development. The CCSP has been in the planning stages for years, nothing has been done yet. So, the facts support my case.

The issue I have is that people read and hear when you speak. You don't know when that property or ANY property in the RDA or NWSP will be redeveloped, and yet you make is sound like there are plans in the works to put a "Santana Row" development at Crow Canyon Commons and that is JUST NOT TRUE! And to make matters worse, you start one rumor disguised as fact in order to perpetuate the "city council is hiding information" myth that seems to be rampant lately. Stop fear mongering! If you have an opinion, state it as such. Don't present your predictions as facts.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by kevin, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 28, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Well Bob, Now you know when the lease is up! I find it hard to believe that someone who claims, "when I was on the Planning Commission. We had City Council, Planning, Economic Development Committee members as well as members of the public with us." did not know when the Federated lease was up on Luckys, makes me question?

For someone who has so much experience in planning to not have a clue when Federated would want to initiated building after their tenants lease was up is also a little puzzling.So why did you all make that trip to Santana Row?

I have a difficult time equating a residential development as the Faria property with a business redevelopment involving Federated.

And Planning is when we as residents and business owners should consider the facts and voice their concerns using facts. Please feel free to correct me on any thing I have conveyed as fact, that in fact, is not fact!




 +  Like this comment
Posted by kevin, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 28, 2012 at 9:08 pm

Roz,

I did talk to Kathy Cherry after the meeting, she did not even know that their Big O was in the redevelopment area. She now knows that it will require a conditional use permit that will depend on City Planners since the area has been rezoned.

I have no problem with having a specific plan, I just want it to include my business of 22 years and the conservation of as much of this areas natural beauty I have enjoyed for the past 55 years.

The same sentiment I have for Mudds!


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Roz Rogoff, the San Ramon Observer,
on Feb 28, 2012 at 9:35 pm

Roz Rogoff is a registered user.

Kevin,

I'm not against a specific plan for this area, but I have reservations about some of the elements in this one. That's what the Public Hearings are for, to get input into what the specific plan should be.

I almost think there should be two specific plans, one for the western end of Norris Canyon and one for North Camino Ramon. I think the current plan tries to cover too much area and pack too much into it.

Your barnlike building should probably be replaced, but that doesn't mean your business must be displaced. It could just be in a nicer place.

Roz


 +  Like this comment
Posted by Bob P, a resident of another community,
on Feb 29, 2012 at 12:35 pm

Kevin, let me take your responses in order.

- "I find it hard to believe that someone who claims...did not know when the Federated lease was up on Lucky's" Ok, now I know, and if I had known back then, what does that information do for me? By the way, there are a lot of other stores in that complex who's leases may or may not be up. Singling out the Lucky lease doesn't impress me much.
- "For someone who has so much experience in planning to not have a clue when Federated would want to initiated building after their tenants lease was up is also a little puzzling" So you know that Federated is going to tear down Crow Canyon Commons in 2012?

- "So why did you all make that trip to Santana Row?" We made the trip to see an example of mixed use housing, and for me, it was to reiterate that I expected Federated to start taking better care of the Crow Canyon Commons property.

- "I have a difficult time equating a residential development as the Faria property with a business redevelopment involving Federated" My purpose was to point out that planning is a long, tedious, legal process, and that specific plans don't always equate to development, even when they are approved.

- "Please feel free to correct me on any thing I have conveyed as fact, that in fact, is not fact!" I haven't seen you address anything factual in your statements, only predicting what Federated might do. Do you have insider information? The thing most don't understand is that you can't approve/deny a plan that doesn't exist. And by law you can't use zoning to restrict a property owner from deriving the 'highest, best use' of their investment. Present me some facts, Kevin, and I will respond to them.


 +  Like this comment
Posted by kevin, a resident of San Ramon,
on Feb 29, 2012 at 8:09 pm

Roz,

Apparently you have not looked closely at my building. It is a steel building with fresh paint that coordinates with the surrounding businesses, it has new sidewalks, new pavement, new roof, 20 beautiful 30 foot Redwoods that hide it from the Iron Horse trail, freshly painted floors and walls, new lighting and a new office. I constantly receive compliments on it.

The point I am making is that is the same one I have been making for the past 2 years: I am not an eyesore, I am in the corner of San Ramon and the NCRSP and I do not interfere with any City traffic or parking. The reason I am able to provide reasonably priced auto service is that I do not have an exorbitant rent which must follow after millions of dollars invested in a new building.

This point is why many existing merchants will be "Displaced"(to use the Cities words)when we install a new Santana Row. Would the community rather "Displace" their auto repair shops,car wash, Fat Maddies, Mr. Pickles, Panera Bread, Starbucks, Peet's Coffee, 24hr. Fitness, Veterinary clinic, etc. and gamble on replacements or those businesses willing to pay the higher rents to stay?

I don't think these issues as well as traffic, City funding, school capacity and parking for 1500 downtown new dwellings, noise and pollution have begun to be reasonably answered.

I am still in the final phases of a remodel but feel free to see what has been done to the "old barn", maybe it will inspire you with ideas for Mudd's "old barn".



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