The San Ramon City Council extended its Faria Preserve development public hearing for the second time after much discussion during a well-attended, four-hour special meeting Monday.
"I'm just not comfortable approving a project without absolute clarity on the mitigation and how much," Mayor Bill Clarkson said toward the end of the conversation.
The council ultimately opted to delay decision-making Monday night, voting instead to continue its discussion of the proposed residential development next month.
The current proposal by Lafferty Communities for the Faria Preserve property would include single-family homes, town houses, condominiums, apartments and senior housing totaling 740 dwelling units. There are also plans for a community park, house of worship and educational facility.
The project property occupies approximately 286.5 acres near Deerwood and Bollinger Canyon roads in northwestern San Ramon.
The development has been in discussion for more than 10 years and has undergone several revisions over that time. After eight public hearings, the San Ramon Planning Commission unanimously approved the Lafferty's current proposal in May.
"Some of us on the current planning commission have spent over 12 years of our lives reviewing this project and looking into this project for the benefit of the whole community," Donna Kerger, vice chair of the planning commission, said during Monday's council meeting.
Councilman Harry Sachs called a formal review of the project nine days after the planning commission's approval, prompting the council to debate the issue during its July 8 meeting.
At the end of that meeting, the council asked city planning staff to revisit five issues: impacts to Interstate 680 on- and off-ramps at Bollinger Canyon Road, a proposed off-site walkway, increasing senior housing, traffic study estimates for the area during commute hours and ways to reduce negative creek impacts.
More than 100 people came back to the council chambers for the follow-up discussion Monday night.
City associate planner Cindy Yee gave a presentation during the public hearing, outlining mitigations the developers could implement to address the council's five concerns.
Yee presented two options to increase senior housing as part of the project, a measure aimed at reducing traffic and school impacts.
The first option was to increase senior units by 65, reduce non-age restricted units by 65 and reduce affordable units by 28, which would add more senior units and keep the overall unit count at 740.
The second option included reducing the total number of units by 30 to a total of 710 units. In order to achieve the reduction, developers would reduce the amount of affordable housing by about 35 units.
"I'm really struggling with which is the better option," Councilman Scott Perkins said after the presentation. "None of them really solves our problems. We have an affordable housing need so anything that decreases affordable housing is going in the wrong direction."
According to Yee, there would not be significant impact to I-680 intersections and based on the city's 2010 traffic evaluation for the project, "all intersections will operate at acceptable level of service."
An off-site walkway at the intersection of Bollinger Canyon and Norris Canyon roads was deemed infeasible, according to Yee. Because the intersection is an all-way stop, it "does not meet warrants for pedestrian enhancement devices," she said.
The developers suggested installing two radar speed display signs to enhance traffic and pedestrian safety in that area.
To reduce creek impacts, the project would not fill the eastern drainage channel and would have limited filling of the central drainage channel, according to Yee.
The developers said they would also include on-site mitigation for the creek and wetlands and off-site mitigation for species protection, which would include an enhancement and restoration process of land outside the development.
After the approximately 30-minute presentation, the floor opened up to the public to voice their opinions and concerns.
About 15 speakers took to the podium. Many other people submitted comment cards for the council record but chose not to verbally address the council.
Some of the issues discussed at the July 8 meeting were brought up again Monday night, including concerns about increased traffic, overcrowding schools, water service and quality of life.
There were a few speakers who said they were not totally against the development, but felt the size needed to be reduced.
After citizens spoke for about 45 minutes, the council took a 10-minute break -- at which time about half the attendees left. The council then discussed their opinions about the presentation.
Sachs said the developers were "applying static data" by using 2004-06 numbers to analyze traffic despite the population increasing by 47% since the data was collected.
Sachs also suggested lowering affordable housing down to 15% and explore "in-lieu" fees that could be allocated to other locations in San Ramon where affordable housing is planned to be built, such as the City Center site at Bishop Ranch.
Sachs suggested that city staff and Lafferty reconvene to develop a new option that would reduce affordable housing to 15%. Perkins said that affordable housing should be reduced but 15% may be too low, so he suggested seeing an option that would lower affordable housing units to 20%.
Councilman Dave Hudson made a motion to approve the current plan approved by the planning commission, but none of the other councilmen seconded his motion.
The mayor said he was "not too crazy" about reducing affordable housing because it is good for the community and it is necessary.
In the end, the council decided in a 3-1-1 vote to have city staff and the developers find a way to reduce affordable housing between 15-20% and present again before the council. Hudson abstained and Clarkson opposed.
The next Faria Preserve public hearing is currently set for Sept. 9.