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Faria moves forward, city officials still concerned about size and scope

The Faria Preserve project in San Ramon has cleared two hurdles -- the Parks and Community Services Commission and the city's Architectural Review Board -- with its next stop coming next month at the San Ramon Planning Commission.

But the project has already attracted opposition from city officials and nearby residents alike.

Mayor Bill Clarkson said in a recent interview with the San Ramon Express that he has concerns with lots sizes, the number of units and the density of the housing at Faria. Current plans call for 740 residential units comprised of single-family homes, town homes, condominiums, and senior housing units.

The project would also include a community park, open space, a church and and an educational facility.

Councilmember Scott Perkins also has some concerns about the plan, while Planning Commissioner Eric Wallis said he's holding off on any decision for now.

"The last time I saw it was at the January joint City Council-Planning Commission meeting," Wallis said. "I know they shrunk the footprint of the project and they've shrunk the number of units."

Some of the concerns raised at the joint meeting were traffic, air quality and noise pollution. Opponents have similar worries.

Those fighting the project recently tried to link their fight to a vocal group active in fighting HOV on- and off-ramps proposed for Norris Canyon or Executive Parkway.

At a recent meeting, three of the candidates for City Council were asked to give a thumbs up or down to the Faria proposal.

Thomas von Thury, a Pleasanton based attorney drew applause when he said he opposed Faria. Rene Matsumoto said she'd like to see a reduction in the number of units allowed, and Harry Sachs, currently a member of the Planing Commission will wait to see the plans, but said he's the only candidate "with a track record of saying no."

Those who oppose the project have a number of specific objections that were raised at the recent meeting, including the number of homes, low-income housing -- which they claim would increase crime -- and lights at the park.

How many homes will be allowed is likely to be a topic of concern at both the Planning Commission and City Council.

Mike Jones, who spoke to the crowd of about 100 at the meeting, called another apartment complex near Doughery Valley High School the highest-crime area in the city.

Another opponent, Leslie Mague, compares the Mill Creek Apartment complex to "downtown Oakland" and says it's hidden behind "30-foot walls.

While there are walls at the complex, none are 30 feet high. A tour of the facility shows a relatively standard apartment complex, with a pool and exercise room. And claims about crime there are false, according to San Ramon police Chief Scott Holder.

"People want to blame crime on lower income or affordable housing when, in reality, it's just a crutch to blame someone for something," Holder said. He said crime is highest near freeways where criminals can get in and out more quickly.

San Ramon also pioneered a crime-free leasing program that can evict someone charged with a crime.

Jones also said the lights at the ball fields would be on until 10 p.m. every night. That's also not the case: the lights will be on only when there are games at either the baseball or soccer field. City averages from other ball fields show that's about 16 percent of the time. In addition, Lafferty Communities agrees to install shielded lighting at Faria Park.

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