The San Ramon City Council approved a resolution Tuesday in support of imposing a new, countywide half-cent sales tax to fund transportation improvements across Contra Costa County.
The Contra Costa Transportation Authority (CCTA) wants to ask voters this fall to approve a 0.5% sales tax that would generate an estimated $2.8 billion in funding over 30 years.
"What we are really doing there is giving the voters an opportunity to tell us if they want to support this kind of a plan," Ross Chittenden, CCTA chief deputy executive director, told the council during his presentation Tuesday night at San Ramon City Hall.
The transportation expenditure plan associated with the new tax is a proposal that the CCTA hopes will promote a strong economy, create more jobs, protect the environment and enhance the quality of life in all Contra Costa County communities, Chittenden said.
Since it would be a special tax proposal, the measure would require support from at least two-thirds of voters to pass.
Chittenden explained that a half-cent transportation sales tax was approved in 1988 for Measure C and extended by the voters until 2034 through Measure J in 2004, which funded projects such as the San Ramon Valley's TRAFFIX program, the preliminary design and community outreach for San Ramon's proposed Iron Horse Regional Trail overcrossings and the Interstate 680 auxiliary lane segment from Crow Canyon Road to Sycamore Valley Road.
As CCTA explores putting a new half-cent sales tax on the ballot, citizens have been able to offer opinions online for what they believed the priorities in the plan should be, as well as have the opportunity to call in and discuss options.
"We got a lot of input from the public to tell us their priorities," Chittenden said, noting that because of all the input that was generated, the CCTA was able to create the expenditure plan.
The CCTA started the plan with dividing the revenue up to sub-regions based on population. The San Ramon Valley and the rest of southwest Contra Costa County would receive about 19.1% of the total funding.
"What this does is it allows two things: to ensure that there are benefits throughout the entire county -- we're not putting all the money in one place," Chittenden said. "And it allows that the priorities that are unique to a region are what get funded."
Chittenden said that what the funding accomplishes in one region might look different than what another region accomplishes due to the unique needs of each region. "That's OK," Chittenden said. "We're not trying to do a one-size-fits-all."
The projects proposed in the southwest county benefits would include an I-680 innovation corridor that could potentially include new carpool and express lanes, transit investments such as express buses and park-and-ride lots, and a focus on technology and management.
The expenditure plan would also include changes to BART capacity and station improvements, with $300 million going toward BART improvements overall. Other focus points would include enhanced transportation for seniors and people with disabilities, along with bike and pedestrian improvements that would include work on the Iron Horse Trail.
The new measure would also include $1.26 million per year to go toward San Ramon for local streets maintenance.
The San Ramon City Council voted unanimously to approve the support resolution after hearing the presentation Tuesday night.
The proposal has received support from all city and town councils in the county so far, with Clayton, Pinole and Richmond -- plus the county Board of Supervisors -- yet to weigh in.
It would need to be approved by the county board and city and town councils that in aggregate represent a majority of cities and towns in the county as well as a majority of the incorporated populations, before heading to voters.
In other business
* The council unanimously approved the 2016-17 assessments for the city's landscaping and lighting district, which consists of a citywide lighting zone, a citywide landscaping zone and 17 smaller special zones.
Property owners in each zone pay an annual assessment to support maintenance of public landscaping and street lighting within the zone.
City staff recommended increases in four of the zones, including 2% increases for both the citywide zones, raising the citywide lighting zone annual assessment to $30.23 per unit and the citywide landscaping assessment up to $65.29 per unit.
The proposal also called for increasing the assessment for Zone 5, Summerwood Loop by $5 to $160 overall and a $15 increase for Zone 12, El Nido to bring that assessment to $75.
The Summerwood Loop increase dominated public comment Tuesday night, with neighborhood resident Susie Ferris-Inderkum strongly opposing the new assessment rate and criticizing the city for "continued errors, omissions and invalid conclusions."
Ferris-Inderkum claimed the city hasn't handled assessment increases and collections properly and she argued that a key pathway through the Summerwood Loop area should be considered public right-of-way that Zone 5 assessments should not be used for.
"This city's bad record-keeping and poor investigation efforts have already cost Zone 5 dearly," Ferris-Inderkum said. "This City Council can spend $600,000 to fix a barn, but you cannot see your way clear to fix a public right-of-way that runs through Zone 5."
"It's pretty discouraging to see both what the drought has done to that area, and also what time has done to the walkway," Mayor Bill Clarkson said after mentioning that he had previously walked around Summerwood Loop with some of the residents.
The mayor noted that the walkway was built by the developer, and that it was not up to current San Ramon standards in regard to the types of pavement that were installed.
"You're taking in money to do things that are needed in that zone," Councilman Dave Hudson said. "I have a hard time believing that the people that live in Zone 5 do not want this money coming in to take care of things that are needed in Zone 5, and that's the overriding premise for my vote tonight."
The councilmen approved the four proposed increases and the rest of the assessment levels as presented.
* San Ramon resident Mark Camenzind gave a special presentation on myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome and the ways that the community can become more aware of the syndrome.
Mayor Bill Clarkson presented a proclamation in recognition of myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome awareness and of May 12 being International Awareness Day for Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.
* The council approved the $93,485 contribution toward the city of Dublin's Dougherty Road widening project related to work in San Ramon city right-of-way. Interim improvement installations, such as road work signs and pot hole fillings, will be presently in effect until the end of this year. Main construction work will begin in the early months of 2017.
* The councilmen reappointed Randy Pedersoli as the San Ramon representative to the Central Contra Costa Transit Authority Citizen Advisory Committee.
* The councilmen received the annual report from the city's Economic Development Advisory Committee.
Committee chair Gary Alpert shared information that the committee found while performing a shopping center analysis around San Ramon and recommended implementing a community economic development program, expanding community outreach and developing a business outreach program.